ALS Canada Research Program revamps its Career Transition Award

We are thrilled to share that the revamped ALS Canada Career Transition Award is accepting applications until Friday, February 21, 2020. This competition will help to support the next generation of scientists working toward a future without ALS.

Originally launched in 2015, the competition ran for two years in partnership with Brain Canada (with the financial support of Health Canada) and was made possible by leveraging contributions received through the Ice Bucket Challenge. The program was designed to help support scientists pursuing innovative ALS research at the postdoctoral level, in their transition to an independent academic position. It also focused on bolstering the careers of new Assistant Professors who are required to compete for grants with veteran researchers. The goal of the program is to help ensure that talented researchers who want to become permanent contributors and leaders in ALS research stay in the field.

While the original award benefited financially from a Brain Canada partnership, the revamped  ALS Canada Career Transition Award was designed to be a sustainable annual competition.

We connected with past ALS Canada-Brain Canada Career Transition Award winners to hear their thoughts on the importance of the program and how this award of support comes at a pivotal time in a young scientist’s career. It was the successes of these past awardees that inspired ALS Canada to redesign and relaunch the program this year.

Dr. Gary Armstrong

Dr. Gary Armstrong, recipient of the inaugural award in 2015, says he is “absolutely ecstatic” to hear about the announcement.  Dr. Armstrong’s lab at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University studies zebrafish to learn what’s different at the cellular level in the spinal cords of these ALS animal models. After his postdoctoral fellowship, Dr. Armstrong was hoping to secure a university position where he would have the greatest freedom to pursue his own research. “There were limited options out there. I absolutely knew winning this award would open the door for me,” he explains. “Without it, my options would have meant that I had to choose to leave science altogether or work for a pharmaceutical company.”


Dr. Chantelle Sephton


Dr. Chantelle Sephton runs her lab at the CERVO Brain Research Centre in Quebec where she studies how mutations in RNA binding proteins may cause the neurodegeneration observed in ALS . “This award really sets you up for success,” she says. “It gives talented young researchers a big advantage landing a position with an academic institution because they can see you’ve already been supported by an external organization.”



Dr. Kessen Patten

Gaining visibility within the ALS research community is also an important benefit of receiving the ALS Canada Career Transition Award. “It serves as a catalyst for further funding as well as collaborations and a platform to show others in Canada what you’re doing,” adds Dr. Sephton. Another award recipient, Dr. Kessen Patten, an Assistant Professor at the Centre INRS- Institut Armand Frappier in Laval, agrees. He says scientific results generated from work funded by the award gave him a competitive edge and positive exposure that led to a $1 million endowed research chair from an individual donor so he could continue his research.


Dr. Jeehye Park


Fresh new ideas are critical for advancing our understanding of ALS, says Dr. Jeehye Park, Canada Research Chair with the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) Research institute in Toronto. “It takes years to generate and characterize good scientific models that recapitulate the ALS features,” she explains. “The ALS Canada Career Transition Award needs to be a priority. Receiving this award gives us hope and the confidence that we can solve this.”


Dr. Veronique Belzil


Since losing a family member to ALS, Dr. Veronique Belzil, Research Fellow in Neuroscience at the Mayo Clinic, has made finding a cure her life’s mission. She says the award is important not only for attracting young researchers but also for retaining those rising stars to make a lifelong commitment to the field of ALS research. “There’s so much we still need to do,” she says.



The talent, passion, and dedication of these award recipients bodes well for a future without ALS. From behind the scenes in his Montreal lab, Dr. Armstrong wants donors to know he and his colleagues are not giving up. “Know that your money is being put to good use,” he says, “and that we are doing everything we can to end this disease.”

The deadline for the 2020 ALS Canada Career Transition Award is Friday, February 21, 2020. For complete information about the award, terms of reference, eligibility and the application process, visit the Apply for Funding section on our website. Start your application today.

Posted in: Research